Basic quality still lacking at islands’ secondary schools

Dutch State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker is satisfied with the improvements made at primary schools in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, but he is less positive about the results of the secondary schools where he says the basic quality is still lacking. This writes The Daily Herald.

The state secretary sent a letter about the progress of improvements in education in the Caribbean Netherlands to the First and Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday. He also sent the inspection reports of various schools on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to Parliament. The reports were drafted by the Dutch Inspection for Education and gave an impression of the progress of improvements in education on the islands in 2014. The Inspection not only looked at the (basic) quality of education at the schools, but also examined the status of intermediate vocational education (middelbaar beroepsonderwijs) and the social formation trajectories for youngsters on St. Eustatius and Saba.

Some schools on the islands, especially in primary education, are progressing very well. Performing exceptionally well has been the Golden Rock School on St. Eustatius, which the Inspection found to be compliant with the basic quality. Several other primary schools on the three islands are expected to realise this grade within short, stated Dekker.

However, the Inspection also concluded that several schools have a lot of catching up to do in order to arrive at an acceptable level of basic quality education, noted the state secretary. It has been agreed with the islands that all schools should have realised a basic quality by 2016.

The use of coaches in primary education has proven successful, but improvements to the quality care and the support of special care pupils remain vital points of attention. The state secretary confirmed that coaches would remain available for primary schools and their management.

The picture of secondary education is mixed, stated Dekker. “The situation in secondary education on all three islands is fragile and the improvement of the quality of education is progressing insufficiently.”

Dekker commended Saba Commissioner Chris Johnson and the management coaches for restoring tranquillity at the Saba Comprehensive School (SCS). A new school board has been appointed, an improvement plan has been actualized and a parent association has been installed for the SCS.

St. Eustatius appeared to be on the right track, stated Dekker. The board of the Gwendoline van Putten School appointed an interim director in April 2014 following the critical report of the Inspection of 2013. Together with the board, a number of positive steps were set last year. This process was continued by the new director. Dekker lauded the fact that an action plan was drafted. “This gives me confidence.” According to the state secretary, the Inspection deemed it too early to determine whether sustainable improvements have been realised. He said that improving administrative efficiency required great efforts, but that he found it positive that the board was open to support in this process.

The state secretary confirmed that he will be making additional funds available in the period 2015-2018 to facilitate further improvement for secondary education on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, but under the condition of actualized improvement plans and cooperation with the management coaches. Dekker also addressed the level of intermediate vocational education in his March 3 letter.

This form of education started on St. Eustatius and Saba in the school year 2012-2013. As such, the results of only a few educational trainings could be determined. The Inspection concluded in May 2014 that these programmes didn’t comply with the basic quality requirements. The Inspection will again look at the examination of this education early in 2015.

At that time, the Inspection will also check the social formation trajectories for youngsters on St. Eustatius and Saba. The Inspection determined during its last assessment in October, 2014, that improvements had been realised in the area of social formation. Preparations are in full swing for the transition of switching from Dutch to English as the language of instruction at schools on St. Eustatius. The University of St. Martin (USM) was recently contracted to train all teachers in the English language. The Curriculum Development Foundation in the Netherlands is supporting the schools to develop an English curriculum, while the Language Union of the Netherlands is assisting to develop material to teach Dutch as a foreign language. There is close cooperation with Saba and know-how is being exchanged with St. Maarten.

The Inspection reports showed that the support of special care pupils/students was being developed at many schools in the Caribbean Netherlands and that visible improvement were realised. In some schools care for this special group of children was already well-developed. “This is positive,” stated Dekker.

However, education for pupils/ students with a big backlog of more complex problems remained a source of concern.

Laws regulating the management and governance aspects will go into effect after August 2016. This means that schools have until August 1, 2016, to arrange the separation of supervision and management and to find suitable persons. The Inspection has been asked to draft an overall report on education in the Caribbean Netherlands in 2016. The Inspection and state secretary acknowledged and take into consideration that schools in the Caribbean Netherlands, on both primary and secondary level, have been facing multiple challenges, especially when compared to the Netherlands. Some of these challenges include the fact that Dutch is a foreign language for most pupils, there is mostly one school for secondary and intermediate vocational education per island, there are no separate schools for special education, education infrastructure is lacking where schools can, for example, attain advice and the large percentage of special care pupils.

inspectie-onderwijs

Opinion: Businesses suffer from Injustices Being Imposed On the Private Sector
SLP meet & greet last Tuesday

10 comments

  1. Dutch State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker is less positive about the results of the secondary schools on Bonaire, Statia an Saba, where he says the basic quality is still lacking.
    In my last contribution to Saba News, I highlighted the inspection report and their conclusions about the SCS. The School had stagnated and needed an impulse to start again. With other words; at the SCS the basic qualities were lacking and still are
    He furthermore states the importance of the teachers coaches to support the teachers an the educational process. At SCS the coach was refused to enter the school at the beginning of the school year and later this year wasn’t allowed to enter certain classes to observe. The director should have immediately intervened in these cases and have the overall importance of the school at heart, not that od certain individual teachers.
    The state secretary further more states that the care for pupils remain a vital point of attention. I support him completely especially knowing that at the SCS unqualified personnel are dealing daily with this issues. The current care coordinator has not produced any single document that would contribute to the wellbeing of care in school, while the department of EC2is waiting to provide assistance. How can the director and school board allow people to be responsible for functions in school that they are not trained or qualified for to continue acting like this? This is asking for a reaction from the state secretary about his dissatisfaction in schools.
    The state secretary furthermore states that “The situation in secondary education on all three islands is fragile and the improvement of the quality of education is progressing insufficiently.”
    This has been indicated in the inspection report of last year. The SCS has stagnated and is not moving forward. Teachers are unhappy in school and feel the non-communication line between staff and director. They also see the discrimination factor taking over between Dutch and non-Dutch personnel. To top it off, the director has been overspending the budget as a result that the school is close to bankruptcy, something that was reported by non-teaching staff months ago.
    Unnecessary trips off island, the private financing of professional development courses, the recruitment of additional personnel and the privileges created for certain departments, and the invitations of additional consultants from The Netherlands to assist the school’s improvement have led to an outrageous spending of school moneys, while no money is available for the weekly house activities, the normal order of school consumables and don’t forget the termly social activities held among staff.
    Miss conduct of finances is punishable and can lead up to serious decisions. I hope that the school has it’s books in order.
    In conclusion, the state secretary has asked the correct questions and made the right interpretations especially towards the SCS. I hope that he will keep a keen eye on the developments that take place there since this is in the interest of not only our students, but the entire island.
    Saba Guru

  2. Sabaguru please be very careful about the picture that you incorrectly portray.

    While inspection in October 2014 stated that “The School had stagnated and needed an impulse to start again,” it was incorrect to assume that this stagnation happened in the 2014-2015 school year. If inspection visited in the beginning of a school year (start of October 2014), what data can they possibly base this on? There were no exams, Report Cards, etc yet for the 2014-2015 school year. So, the inspectorate was wrong to imply that the school’s development had stagnated.

    “To top it off, the director has been overspending the budget as a result that the school is close to bankruptcy, something that was reported by non-teaching staff months ago.”
    There was too much spending at SCS over the past TWO years (January 2013-December 2014), please ask the previous director about the unnecessary spending he did between January 2013-June 2014….

    “…while no money is available for the weekly house activities, the normal order of school consumables and don’t forget the termly social activities held among staff.”
    Excuse me? Most definitely wrong information right there!
    Money has nothing to do with the weekly house activities.
    Orders of normal school consumables? Who said so?
    Termly social activities held among staff?? I remember hearing about the SCS having a social just the beginning of February. They had a Christmas dinner at Queen’s Gardens, I saw the pics on FB. They also had a Baby Shower (also saw pics on fb) and a Cove Bay bbq last year between August and December. How many more Staff Socials you think they should have had by now Sabaguru? That’s four social events right there….

    So, please do not make assumptions and post them for the world to see. The staff and students work their hardest and put in their all. Having constant ridicule, negative and false comments in the media all the time can be very exhausting and hurtful to those involved.

    And while some people are so focused on bashing SCS every chance they can, why didn’t anyone ask a question about this statement:
    “However, education for pupils/ students with a big backlog of more complex problems remained a source of concern.”
    How do students get to SCS with a ‘big’ backlog of problems? And why isn’t anyone concerned about that?
    I guess it is only a concern after they get to SCS with their big backlogs, and cannot keep up with the level of work there. I guess SCS will be at fault there too…

  3. Dear Hassell,

    All my statements are based on information coming from reliable sources. I want to make it clear that I am not making up stories or try to stir up commotion. The sole purpose while I spend my time on this is to keep the people informed about developments especially at the SCS since, according to the State Secretary and the inspectorate there are the most crucial problems. Nor school or government sends out the true information.
    With having said that, it was the Inspectorate in their December 2014 report, where they mentioned the observation of a stagnation in the educational process, compared with the previous school year. Their findings are based on the school year 2014 – 2015 and this conclusion was made after several interviews in October 2014 with various stakeholders.
    I remember that the previous school board ran a very tight schedule on spending money. The daily spending money was limited and the school board wanted to have an overview of all spending. That is why the school year 2013 was closed with a positive surplus. This information is public and can be checked on the OCW website. I also checked this with various stakeholders and confirmed the above.
    Your statement about too much spending at SCS over the past TWO years (January 2013-December 2014) is just based on nonsense and false information.
    When you hear constantly that there is no more money for fun activities, after school activities and even school orders, coming from the director, you very well may assume that the school is running out of money. Just for your info to show you how tight things are, each staff member received two tokens at the Cove Bay BBQ for two drinks. A mixed drink was 2 tokens. You get my point now?
    I fully agree with you that staff members and students are doing their utmost to make the school a better place. I respect them for that and applaud their input and positive attitude. It is not and will never be to ridicule the school, but the truth needs to be said so that we all know what is happening.
    Saba Guru

  4. Dear Hassell,

    Just a short reminder that all key role players mentioned by the State Secretary were recruited by the old school board last June 2014; the new director, care coordinator, the form 1 teacher, the assistant care coordinator and last but not least the new subject teachers. These new appointed staff members are the ones who stagnate the process, try to adjust and change the school situation to their liking and teach according to their experience which is not always in line with the expectations of the inspection/school coaches.
    The director was clearly indoctrinated by the old school board to develop an attitude in order to run the school with an iron fist. Currently he is paying the price for following that advice.
    So if State Secretary Dekker is stressing his concerns, he has all valid reasons to do so. Hopefully the new school board can bring some substantial changes in that school. I have high expectations from them, especially when you compare them with those who sat seat in the board in the past. But maybe we should not do that.

  5. In his first contribution above, Sabaguru states “He furthermore states the importance of the teachers coaches to support the teachers an the educational process.” But in the original artical is said: “but under the condition of actualized improvement plans and cooperation with the management coaches.
    These two coaches are totally different. August 2012 the former board, together with the previous director, refused the assistance of the management coach, who was already more than a year supporting the management team.

  6. I want to ask the Dutch government why we still on CXC? It don’t prepare our kids for nothing and theys going to school in America and Holland. It make no damn sense. We not a British island so why are kids forced to learn about they and not education that help them where they go? I hears all them that left for America last year all kicked out and coming back and I have to ask why? I feel it no wonder as what they learn don’t prepare them for so. And those other young ones that forced to go to Bonnaire and have to learn in Dutch as they can’t go anywhere else. It a mess and our kids deserve better.
    (Shortened by editor)

  7. Personally, I have been keeping a watchful eye on what has been going on at SCS over the last year and I think it’s very clear that things in the school have not been right since the mass exodus of teachers and the former director since last year.

    Looking at the situation today, I se that is also very clear that things at the school have not improved, but have, as reported stagnated. Furthermore, If we are to believe all that is being reported on Saba News from all sides it becomes very evident that the situation at the school has gotten worse over the course of this year.

    The people that are losing out in all this are the students at the school. Is SCS still considered a healthy and safe environment? With all the negative comments on here, I am starting to believe that it can no longer be considered so. This concerns me very much as a parent as I have children getting ready to enter the school in the next year. SCS seemed to be on the right track a little over a year ago but has since fallen off the rails. What is the vision of the school? Has this even been addressed by the new Director this year? Without vision, the school loses footing, which it has clearly done this year.

    Therefore, can we not just admit that mistakes were made and correct them? I hear there is a new school board so that is a positive step. However more is obviously required, and it HAS to start with leadership. SCS is clearly lacking the right leader and this MUST be addressed immediately if the school is to regain its footing! Saffy brings up a very good point regarding the curriculum currently being used and how it is not benefitting the students. This MUST be addressed also if the school is to have a vision, future and competence in the community.

  8. Sabaguru,

    “With having said that, it was the Inspectorate in their December 2014 report, where they mentioned the observation of a stagnation in the educational process, compared with the previous school year. Their findings are based on the school year 2014 – 2015 and this conclusion was made after several interviews in October 2014 with various stakeholders.”
    I hope you see how contradictory this statement is.
    One cannot compare the school year 2013-2014 to a day or two spent at the school in the beginning of October.
    School had only been back in session for approximately 6 weeks. And yes, there were quite a few new teachers at the school which means it may take them some time to get their bearings with new students, etc.
    Therefore my point is that it is not a reliable nor valid comparison. And it is not fair to the teachers of the SCS to say in the beginning of a school year that the school’s development has stagnated when comparing it to the entire year before…

    “Just for your info to show you how tight things are, each staff member received two tokens at the Cove Bay BBQ for two drinks. A mixed drink was 2 tokens. You get my point now?”
    Yes, I get the point that your info is wrong. The two tokens for drinks were given to teachers of SCS, SHS, the Day Care, etc at the end of a workshop held in the beginning of January. Those tokens were used at Scout’s Place. And yes, two tokens would have to be used for a mixed drink. However, drinking a mixed drink is a personal choice. Its a bit ungrateful to complain about such don’t you think?
    There are other jobs where the employees never have social activities.

    Seems like your reliable sources aren’t always so reliable…

  9. Interesting points, but I think that it has become very clear over the past year that there are MANY issues at the school; issues that could have been, and should have been avoided, if the previous school board had simply listened to the concerned parents and students that pleaded with them to reconsider and review their decisions in the spring of last year.

    The situation that SCS is in now and the reason why people still voice strong opinions on this website regarding the direction of education, falls 100% on the previous school board. Many people, including myself, feel that they should be able to justify the decisions as it has affected the entire community and future of Saba. From my knowledge, to date, the previous board have yet to publicly acknowledge anything other than a parent meeting and make backhanded retorts on Saba News such as the previous posting.

    Today, I feel it is vital to teach children accountability, but this must start at home. Have the previous school board ever taken any accountability regarding the mess SCS is in because of their actions last year? Was it not the same school board who quit shortly after the term started last August, leaving the staff and parents to deal with the mess? Where is there any accountability and taking ownership in any of this mess.

    Being a member of a school board is perhaps one of the most important positions of responsibility on the island, and it is unfortunate that this was not taken seriously last year, where personal vendettas took precedence. Hopefully, the new school board WILL be more competent in their capacity as a functioning body, and act in the best interest of the island – the students.

  10. Dear Hassell,

    These are not my comments. They are made by the Dutch Inspectorate and the State Secretary is asking questions, based on the report. This is a simply way of how a correct system should function. So, based on your comments, do you question the professionalism and quality of the Dutch Inspectorate? You question the remarks made by the Dutch State Secretary?
    As I said before, these are not my comments/statements. But I understand where the inspectorate and State Secretary are coming from.

    Regarding the tokens, I can’t remember one department celebration where staff members were handed two tokens. Just a very cheap Dutch way of cutting cost and showing off to staying in control. In my opinion just a discriminating disgusting way of “controlling” your staff.

    SabaGuru

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *